WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) today introduced legislation to require makers of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and biologics to publicly report money they give to doctors over $100 every year.
The Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2009 would establish a nationwide standard requiring drug, device and biologic makers to report payments to doctors to the Department of Health and Human Services and for those payments to be posted online in a user friendly way for public consumption. It would establish penalties as high as $1 million for knowingly failing to report the information. The proposal incorporates many of the new recommendations of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent congressional agency which advises Congress on issues affecting the Medicare program.
The bill marks a continued effort by Grassley and Kohl to achieve public disclosure of financial relationships between physicians and the drug, device and biologic industry. The legislation introduced today is along the lines of S.2029, a bill they introduced two years ago, which the 110th Congress never considered.
“Shedding light on industry payments to physicians would be good for the system,” Grassley said. “Transparency fosters accountability, and the public has a right to know about financial relationships. Patients rely on their doctors’ advice. Taxpayers spend billions every year on prescription drugs and medical devices through Medicare and Medicaid. They also fund tens of billions of dollars of medical research each year, and the doctors conducting that research have a big influence on the practice of medicine.”
Kohl said, “Since we first introduced the bill, there has been a groundswell of support from every corner. Patients want to know that they can fully trust the relationship they have with their doctor. I am confident this legislation will pass during the 111th Congress.”
Kohl has convened several hearings as Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging to look at conflicts of interest created by industry payments to physicians. Most recently, Kohl has pursued an ongoing investigation of industry funding of continuing medical education organizations, beginning with a letter to the American College of Cardiology concerning its five-year partnership with the Cardiovascular Research Foundation, which receives funding from a variety of medical device manufacturers.
In addition, Kohl is the author of legislation to create a federal “academic detailing” program would provide physicians and other prescribers with an objective source of information on all prescription drugs, based on independent, scientific research. Currently, pharmaceutical sales representatives are one of the only ways doctors learn about new drugs on the market. Kohl has also voiced concern that pharmaceutical companies are now developing profiles of individual physicians’ prescribing information as part of their marketing efforts. Drug companies and others purchase physician information from the American Medical Association that enables them to match prescribing data to specific physicians.
Grassley has conducted extensive oversight and revealed large sums of unreported money going to leading research doctors. He’s put pressure on the National Institutes of Health to help achieve disclosure by fully exercising its authority to track financial relationships between the drug and device industry and doctors conducting federally sponsored medical research.
Grassley said the movement during the last year toward greater tracking of financial relationships by individual drug companies, professional associations and medical centers shows that the reform movement is gaining traction. “The goal of our legislation is to lay it all out, make the information available for everyone to see, and let people make their own judgments about what the relationships mean or don’t mean,” Grassley said. “If something’s wrong, then exposure will help to correct it. Like Justice Brandeis said almost a century ago, ‘sunshine is the best disinfectant.’”
Grassley has also examined financial ties that members of advisory boards for the Food and Drug Administration have with the drug industry, and he issued a report two years ago on industry support for continuing medical education. He said he is considering MedPAC’s recommendation that reporting requirements also be applied to industry payments to medical organizations, hospitals, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacists and pharmacies, continuing medical education groups, and medical schools. Grassley is Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance.
The legislative language of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2009 is available at http://aging.senate.gov/letters/ppsabill2009.pdf.
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